Yesterday, during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, former Vice President Joe Biden revealed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the Obama administration from calling out Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Biden recounted that President Obama was concerned that commenting on the election without a bipartisan front would undermine the election in such a way as to strengthen Russian efforts. “Can you imagine if the president called a press conference in October, with this fella, Bannon, and company, and said, ‘Tell you what: Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it,’” said Biden.
But when presented with a bipartisan statement of condemnation, McConnell refused to sign it.
Biden’s statements were seconded by a former Obama-era White House official. Speaking to Politico, the official stated that the Obama administration’s efforts were not made for the sake of being bipartisan. “It was necessary because we needed the buy-in from state and local election administrators (many of whom were Republican partisans and/or skeptical of federal government),” said the official.
McConnell’s office swiftly refuted Biden’s comments by calling attention to a letter signed by all four congressional leaders in September 2016 that was sent to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors. While the letter did urge further cybersecurity measures, it did not address Russian interference specifically.
The revelation comes one day after McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer struck a highly criticized bipartisan deal to reopen the U.S. Government. Much of the criticism resulted from a lack of trust in McConnell.
Biden believes the Trump administration is “abdicating” its responsibility as a world power by not countering Russian interference worldwide, and he expressed regret for not doing more despite the lack of bipartisan support. “Had we known what we knew three weeks later, we may have done something more,” the former VP lamented.